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Oktoberfest in Manila |

Travel and Tourism

Oktoberfest in Manila

- Maria Jorica B. Pamintuan -

MANILA, Philippines –  There are Oktoberfest events all over Manila. But what the typical Filipino knows about the long-enduring tradition, as well as the people who started it, is limited to two things: it’s all about beer, and it’s imported from Germany.

Oct. 8 is the Manila German Club’s celebration of Oktoberfest. Not quite the Oktoberfest that Filipino beer drinkers know (yes, the one hosted by a leading brewery), this annual celebration is more than an occasion and an excuse to drink. For the sizable German population in the country, it is an opportunity to congregate with their compatriots. The Oktoberfest is not merely a celebration, but also a reminder; it is a piece of their culture, and more importantly, a slice of home.

Dr. Bodo Goerlich, fondly called Dr. G by his Filipino officemates, is a German expat who has made the Philippines his home (at least, temporarily). This year’s Oktoberfest is his second in the country. He had experienced the Oktoberfest in China, but oddly enough has yet to attend the celebrations in the festival’s birthplace, Munich.

However, he does know about the history of the event and was more than happy to share some of his experiences and knowledge.

The first Oktoberfest was apparently an extension of the wedding celebration of the King of Bavaria, said Dr. G. According to Wikipedia, the exact date of the original festival was Oct. 12, 1810, so this year marks the bicentennial of this tradition.

In those 200 years, not much about the Oktoberfest has changed. “People drink, they eat sausage and potatoes, and they drink,” said Dr. G. No matter where in the world the festival is celebrated, that’s basically what the Oktoberfest is all about — drinking and being merry.

The Philippines has its own version of this German-origin party. It follows the same formula — beer plus pulutan — but leave it to ever-creative Filipinos to add a twist to the celebration by throwing in a pinch (or a punch) of original Pinoy rock music to the mix.

Of course, that’s not to say that other Oktoberfests don’t have music. In fact, according to Dr. G, a special band is flown all over the world to perform at German Club Oktoberfests. They probably hold the record for the longest days of Oktoberfest celebrations as they jump from one venue to another. What is this band? Well, it’s a traditional German band. So... what is a traditional German band?

“It’s a band of men in leather pants, with brass instruments,” said Dr. G. Something about that just doesn’t sound right, but the fact remains that while many countries have borrowed the concept of Oktoberfest, the traditional band is one of the unique facets of genuinely German celebrations — men in lederhosen; it can’t get any more German than that.

Another distinguishing feature of the original Oktoberfest is the beer. Dr. G said the alcohol content in the beer is higher than usual for the duration of the festival. From the usual potency, which hovers between five and six percent alcohol, Oktoberfest levels are closer to eight and nine percent. The higher the alcohol content, the faster the drinker gets, well, drunk — and in high spirits, so to speak. No wonder that there are many crimes and accidents related to the Oktoberfest in Germany.

But, as was said earlier, Oktoberfest is not just about beer. Women and children actually go to these parties, Dr. G said. They don’t drink as much (and, in the children’s case, not at all), but the Oktoberfest is a family festival, not just a party venue. There are carnival rides, and pop music for the younger set, and more of the traditional activities for those who want to experience the Oktoberfest as it really was. As for the drinking, orange juice and water are available for the non-alcoholic drinkers.

Some families are even allowed to pitch tents within the event grounds. Aside from the personal tents, there are also 14 big tents which house the beer, food vendors and performing acts.

The bottom line is, Oktoberfest — whether it be the Filipino, Chinese or German version — is a celebration of life. Here in the Philippines, it means music and good local beer (which even the Germans find delectable!). For Germans, it’s a long-running tradition that has brought fame and infamy to their country, and has left an indelible mark on their culture.

Germans and Filipinos may not always see eye to eye. Filipinos have a hard time understanding why Germans think cheese flavored ice cream is weird. Most Germans will never eat balut in their lives because psychological revulsion is stronger than gastronomic curiosity or adventurism. But these two races will always agree on at least three things: durian is the smelliest fruit on Earth, beer tastes best when ice-cold, and October is a month meant for inebriated celebration.

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